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The Establishment and Effect of a Couple's Date of Separation for Divorce in California

California is one of a handful of community property states in the United States. What that means essentially is that property and money acquired through the labor of either party during a couple's marriage belongs equally to both parties.

In California, unlike Texas, the date of separation is an important concept when a couple decides to get a divorce, because after this period any assets acquired through individual labor belongs to the party who acquired such as their own separate property. In other words, any assets or money so acquired will not be subject to division through the divorce process.

Great! But when does the date of separation begin?

In most instances, couples easily come to an agreement on this issue. It is usually when one party moves out and has no intention of returning.

In other cases, however, this issue may not be so clear cut. In difficult economic times, for instance, couples may choose to stay together under one roof due to financial considerations, but for all intents and purposes have ended their marriage. Also, the opposite of this situation can occur, where couples live separate and apart from one another, but have no intention of ending their marital union.

When the date of separation is in dispute, the court will assess the subjective intention of the parties by often using the objective facts. Things such as culture, religious beliefs, and personal preference can color the ultimate finding of fact on this issue.

What the court is looking for is unambiguous and objectively ascertainable facts that the parties intended the marriage to be over.

In highly disputed divorce cases where this is debated, a mini trial specifically on this topic may be the best solution as early as possible in the divorce proceedings.

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